Keith Paine

Ahh…Valentine’s Day. A celebration of love. A chance to spend cash on stuff that nobody needs, and often a cause of heartache. Love is tricky – both for those who are in a relationship and those who want to be in one.

If attachment breeds suffering, as the Buddha taught, then what should we do about love, the greatest attachment of all? Are we born to suffer if we don’t find a lover? We all long for the security of being with a person who’ll love us back. Our egos are satisfied when we feel loved. In our society, we’ve become attuned to acquiring things and judging our success by those things: money, a high-status job, a house. We can become attached to the idea of love in the same way, measuring our status as a person by our love lives. We’re flying high when our relationships go well, suffering when they fail.

Is it possible to experience love without attachment? Well…that depends on how we experience love. If we think of love as something that we have to get, than it can just as easily be lost, and we’ll suffer as a result. If instead we think of love as a way of being, the rules change. Love becomes active, not passive. Love becomes a daily experience, not something we have to find in someone else.

If this concept sounds kind of unrealistic, I believe it is much easier in practice. Whether it’s giving time to your kids or giving a donation to Haiti, we act with love all the time! Americans happen to be an incredibly generous people, especially when inspired by loss or need. Turn that same generosity towards yourself and those closest to you – in other words, act with love instead of searching for love– and you’ll be shocked at how much of it you get in return.